Ceramide and sphingosine display a unique profile during brain development, indicating their critical role in myelinogenesis. Employing advanced technology such as gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, high performance liquid chromatography, and immunocytochemistry, along with cell culture and molecular biology, we have found an accumulation of sphingosine in brain tissues of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and in the spinal cord of rats induced with experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. The elevated sphingosine leads to oligodendrocyte death and fosters demyelination. Ceramide elevation by serine palmitoyltransferse (SPT) activation was the primary source of the sphingosine elevation as myriocin, an inhibitor of SPT, prevented sphingosine elevation and protected oligodendrocytes. Supporting this view, fingolimod, a drug used for MS therapy, reduced ceramide generation, thus offering partial protection to oligodendrocytes. Sphingolipid synthesis and degradation in normal development is regulated by a series of microRNAs (miRNAs), and hence, accumulation of sphingosine in MS may be prevented by employing miRNA technology. This review will discuss the current knowledge of ceramide and sphingosine metabolism (synthesis and breakdown), and how their biosynthesis can be regulated by miRNA, which can be used as a therapeutic approach for MS.
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